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Maximising your Metabolism and Burning More Calories 24 Hours a Day
Cardio. For some a passion they can’t get enough of, and for others it’s a painful dread. The definition of cardio (which is short for cardiovascular exercise), is any physical movement that gets your heart rate up and increases blood circulation throughout your body. Love it or hate it, at the end of the day, cardiovascular exercise is essential for optimal hormones, recovery, muscle growth, fat loss, health and happiness.
- Optimal Health – Cardiovascular fitness and heart function.
- Magic Metabolism – Easier to get lean and stay lean.
- Happy Hormones – Full of feel good endorphins, reduced cravings and appetite.
- Rapid Recovery – Clears out lactic waste and brings in fresh nutrients.
- More Muscle – Improved oxygen uptake for compound lifts.
Caloric Confusion – Diet vs Exercise
NEAT Ways to Boost your Metabolism
Let’s talk a little more about maximising your Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).
Remember NEAT is all the calories you burn outside of formal exercise sessions, and its NEAT that explains the difference between each individuals total daily calorie expenditure. Ever wondered why some people seem to have such fast metabolisms and never seem to gain weight even after eating a tonne of junk food? NEAT is the reason why.
Obese people are profoundly more sedentary than lean people. They move 2.5 hours less per day than lean people, resulting in roughly 350 fewer calories per day.” – Dr James Levine, endocrinologist.
As you saw earlier, NEAT accounts for around 30% of physical activity calories per day, but this can range greatly from 15 – 50% when you compare sedentary people to active people.
Walking contributes to the vast majority of NEAT so obviously the type of work you do and how you spend your spare time will have a major influence. If you work at a desk all day long, hardly get up and then go home to spend hours on the sofa then your NEAT level is low. If you deliver mail or work in any other type of physical job and then spend the evening playing tennis then your NEAT can be very high!
Most people sit all day long, surf the internet, watch TV and play video games. We have gone from a world where 90% of the population worked physical jobs in agriculture, to a chair bound technology based society filled with cars, chairs, computers, elevators and TV.
How Can I Increase my NEAT?
Short of changing from a desk job to a lumberjack, you are probably thinking that NEAT is too trivial to worry about, and if you looked at one activity at a time, you’d probably be right. But if you open up to a long term perspective, and you make numerous changes in daily activities that become a habitual part of your lifestyle, the accumulation is very significant.
Simple ways to be more active:
Spend less time in a chair and more time standing and walking. I personally use a smart watch to track my steps and remind me to stand up at frequent intervals.
A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion has found that in previously overweight sedentary adults, the subjects who met a 10,000 steps per day goal saw large improvements in body composition. Those who missed their goals did not get any improvement at all.
A pedometer study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that the Amish population (who have a 4% obesity rate, while eating mainly meat, eggs, gravy, pies, cakes and potatoes) walked an average of 18,425 steps per day. At the same time the American average logs around just 5,000 steps per day. That equates to a difference of 400 – 600 calories per day!
As you have probably noticed by now, The Transformation Toolkit isn’t some cut and paste fitness program. It shows you the universal principles, and gives you flexible and adaptable guidelines on how to apply them based on your own situation.
In this section, we are going to use the six points of calorie expenditure above and some useful considerations to help make all your training decisions easy. I want to make sure you have a training program in place that suits your schedule and lifestyle, no matter what level or situation you are starting from today.
With that in mind, here are four considerations for you to think about when it comes to deciding on the cardio that is right for you:
The Four Cardio Considerations
Types of Cardio
Cardio Frequency – How Often?
GeorgeHealth Recommendation: –
Cardio Intensity – How Hard?
GeorgeHealth Recommendation: –
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
High Intensity Interval Training, (known as HIIT for short), is a technique where you alternate 30 to 120 second periods of very high intensity effort (“work interval”) with 30 to 120 second periods of low to moderate intensity (“recovery interval”). During the work interval, you actually push yourself beyond your target heart zone (above 85%) to the point where you begin to lose your breath. You then reduce the intensity enough during the recovery interval so you reclaim the oxygen debt just in time to do another work interval.
Interval training can be done on any cardio machine (bike, treadmill, rower, elliptical), or you can go outside on flat surfaces, hills or up stairs.
HIIT has received a lot of press lately as being superior to steady state exercise. In some ways, it IS superior: HIIT burns a lot of calories during the workout, but where it really shines is after the workout. Your metabolic rate stays elevated longer after the workout is over than steady state cardio. This increase in the metabolism is the EPOC we talked about earlier.
More about EPOC
You will remember however, that EPOC is not as great as some people think. It’s a myth that your metabolism stays elevated for 24 hours after a regular aerobic workout. That only happens after extremely intense and/or prolonged exercise such as running a marathon.
After low intensity exercise, the magnitude of the EPOC is so small that its impact on fat loss is negligible. Somewhere between 9 and 30 extra calories are burned after exercise at an intensity of less than 60 – 65% of maximal heart rate. In other words, a casual stroll on the treadmill will do next to nothing to increase your metabolism.
However, EPOC does increase with the intensity (and duration) of the exercise.
According to Wilmore and Costill in “Physiology of Sport and Exercise,“ the EPOC after moderate exercise (75 – 80%) will amount to approximately .25 kcal/min or 15 kcal/hour. This would provide an additional expenditure of 75 kcal that would not normally be calculated in the total energy expended for that activity.
That extra 75 calories is definitely nothing special, but it adds up over time. In a year that would mean (in theory) you would burn an extra 2.36kg (5.2 lbs) of fat from the additional calories expended after the workout.
Studies on the effects of HIIT have demonstrated a much higher EPOC for interval training than steady state training, which can add substantially to the day’s calorie expenditure.
Scientists from the University of Alabama compared the effects of two exercise protocols on 24-hour energy expenditure.
The first group cycled for 60 minutes at a moderate intensity. The second group performed HIIT, cycling for two minutes at high intensity followed by two minutes at a low intensity. The group that performed the HIIT burned 160 more calories in 24 hours than the low intensity group. That means the HIIT group would burn an extra 11.8 pounds of fat in one year if they did HIIT five days a week instead of conventional training.
Did you know that weight training actually has a much higher magnitude of EPOC than aerobic training. Studies have shown increases in metabolic rate of as much as 4 – 7% over a 24- hour period from resistance training. That means weight training does burn fat – albeit through an indirect mechanism. For someone with an expenditure of 2500 calories per day, that could add up to 100 – 175 extra calories burned after your weight training workout is over.
The lesson is simple: Anyone interested in losing body fat who isn’t lifting weights should first take up a regimen of weight training, then – and only then – start thinking about the HIIT!
GeorgeHealth Recommendation: –
Cardio Progression & Recovery
To burn more fat you have to burn more calories. As I said before, beginners start off with three days a week of cardio training. They can expect to see good results initially because their bodies aren’t accustomed to exercise and any increase in activity above no activity will always produce some results.
More often than not, the results will begin to slow down a bit within a few months of training. Why is this? Because three days a week is for beginners, health, or maintenance. If you want twice as much fat loss and you want it twice as fast, double your cardio.
Suppose you burn 400 calories per workout for three workouts per week. That’s a total of 1200 calories per week burned. If you gradually ramp that up to six days per week at 400 calories per workout, you would burn 2400 calories. Just like that, you’ve doubled your fat loss every week. Most people find it best to leave one day in the week for complete rest to give them a nice balance in life and help them with long term compliance.
What would happen next if, in addition to increasing your cardio from three to six days per week, you increased the intensity so you were burning 600 calories per workout? With six workouts at 600 calories per workout you’d be up to 3600 calories per week….
YOU JUST TRIPLED YOUR FAT LOSS! Yes it’s that simple.
Managing Overtraining and Adaption
To avoid injury, over-training, loss of muscle and adaptation, your cardio training should be cycled throughout the year based on your needs and goals at any given time. Doing cardio sessions seven days a week month after month, year after year is unnecessary and will eventually lead to injury, over-training or burnout. It can also cause your body to adapt to the high volume of training. Aerobic adaptation almost always occurs if you continue doing daily cardio sessions for a long enough period. As you become more and more fit aerobically, the same workload becomes easier and eventually your body completely adapts to the workload. At this point, fat loss may come to a screeching halt. When it does, then the only way you can continue to lose fat is to add even more cardio. Before long, you may find yourself doing cardio twice a day just to maintain.
Aerobic adaptation syndrome often happens to aerobics instructors who teach two or three classes a day. Despite their extremely high energy expenditure, they sometimes have difficulty losing body fat because their bodies have grown so accustomed to the same routine every day.
To avoid adaptation and plateaus, you must alternate periods of high volume aerobic work with periods of low volume work over the course of a year. Once you’ve achieved your goal weight and body fat percentage, don’t continue with six or seven days per week. Three or four times a week usually does the trick to maintain your body fat at your desired level. On the other hand, if you quit doing cardio completely, body fat will tend to creep back on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Myth: “Low intensity aerobic exercise burns more body fat than high intensity aerobic exercise.”
This theory suggests that once your heart rate rises out of the “target fat-burning zone,” you cease to burn fat and you burn mostly carbohydrates. Therefore, the theory goes, the best way to lose fat is staying at a slower pace and a lower intensity to burn body fat.
The theory is that during low intensity exercise, you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat stores, so people assume low intensity exercise burns more fat overall. If this were true, we could extend the theory to it’s logical conclusion and say that sleeping for twelve hours a day is the ultimate fat burner because when you’re sleeping you’re burning the greatest proportion of fat. The problem is, because sleeping is so “low in intensity,” it hardly burns any calories! If the intensity of an activity is too low, you don’t burn enough total calories to have any impact on fat loss.
Carbs burned: 110 calories
Fat burned: 110 calories
Total calories burned: 220 calories
Carbs burned: 222 calories
Fat burned: 110 calories
Total calories burned: 332 calories
Why Moderate to High Intensity is Better
At lower intensities, you burn a greater percentage of calories from fat than carbohydrates, and at higher intensities you burn a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrates. High intensity aerobic exercise can use as much as 65-70% of the body’s energy needs in the form of carbohydrate. The most important issue for fat loss is not the ratio of fat to carbohydrate burned, but the total number of calories burned and high intensity aerobic exercise burns the most calories!
What about the other 23 hours of the day? If you burn more carbs during the workout, your body will compensate over 24 hours and burn more fat later on in the day instead of carbs.
The lower the intensity, the lower the total number of calories burned and the higher the intensity, the greater the number of calories burned. High intensity cardio also raises your metabolic rate after the workout to a much greater degree than low intensity cardio. That’s why high intensity cardio is better, provided that you can maintain it for a long enough duration to burn an appreciable number of calories.
If you’re concerned, older, overweight or never worked out before, don’t worry. You don’t have to do high intensity exercise.
In fact, I strongly recommend you avoid high intensity exercise if any of the following applies to you:
- You’ve been inactive for a significant period.
- You don’t have your doctor’s approval.
- You’re obese.
- You’re susceptible to orthopaedic stress.
- You have significant joint / mobility issues.
- You have any cardiac related concerns / issues.
If any of these do apply to you, a low impact, low intensity cardio such as walking could be your best choice of activity.
Another consideration is the enjoyability factor I’ve mentioned. If you can’t bear the intensity of the work required, then simply don’t do it. Low and moderate cardio is still useful and still provide positive health benefits.
If you are in the position to track your calories burned during cardio then great. However, if it’s too impractical or unrealistic to do so, then don’t worry too much about it.
As long as you understand the principle of calorie expenditure from exercise and you can apply it on a practical level for you then brilliant.
Some people enjoy using calorie counters, heart rate monitors, software and apps to track their workouts, but consider this optional. The best way to tell if it’s working is to track your results. Are you progressing to your goal? If not then you need to make an adjustment to your nutrition and / or your cardio.
You might spot “fitness gurus” say that eight minutes in the morning is all it takes to get six pack abs.
Why do so many “gurus” in the magazines and on the internet talk about these “super short, super easy” cardio workouts? The answer is simple: “Quick and easy” sells, “Long and difficult doesn’t sell.
It’s all about marketing and the almighty money. If an author or promoter of a product can convince you that you can achieve your dreams with a minimum of effort, their sales will skyrocket. A wise person knows nothing good ever comes fast and easy.
Getting in great shape by spending only twenty minutes a day, three days a week (or less!) sounds great, but when things sound too good to be true, they usually are. If your goal is better health and a decent level of cardiovascular fitness, then three days of cardio a week for 20 minutes IS all you need. However, if your goal is to lose a lot of body fat as quickly as possible, then you’re probably going to need more than 20 minutes.
If you’re one of the few people genetically blessed with a fast metabolism and the ability to burn fat easily, then three days a week for twenty minutes will work for you. In fact, I know a few people with hyperactive metabolisms that stay ripped all year round without doing any cardio at all! Not many of us are that fortunate. I’ve seen very few people lose fat quickly from just three days a week of cardio. On the other hand, I’ve never seen anyone do six days a week of cardio for 45 minutes and NOT lose a lot of body fat (provided of course, they were on a good diet).
If you have superior genetics, you might get away with very little cardio. But if you’re like most people, be prepared to do more. The bottom line is that you should do as much – or as little – cardio as it takes for YOU to reach your goal. You can only determine how much that is by understanding your body type, getting started and adjusting your program through trial and error. If you can lose fat from just three 20 minute workouts a week – that’s GREAT! Don’t do more if you don’t have to. However, if you’ve been doing 20-minute workouts three times per week and nothing is happening, then you need to increase your duration and/or frequency until the fat starts coming off.
Even though you are asking about fasted morning cardio benefits, any time of day that suits your schedule is a good time for cardio. The important thing is that you just do it.
However, many people believe that morning fasted cardio (exercise on an empty stomach) burns more body fat. The theory is that fat oxidation is increased during cardio in the fasted state.
This is still controversial, and still being debated. In my opinion, the main thing is the total calories you burn and so you should simply schedule your workouts for the time you are most likely to stick to it on a consistent and enjoyable basis.
All that being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider doing your cardio sessions in the morning.
Fasted Morning Cardio Benefits: Top 7 Reasons!
- When you do cardio in the morning, your metabolism stays elevated for a period of time after the workout is over. If you do cardio in the evening, you burn calories during the session, but you fail to take advantage of the “afterburn” effect because your metabolic rate drops dramatically as soon as you go to sleep.
- Morning cardio gives you a feeling of accomplishment and makes you feel great all day by releasing mood-enhancing endorphins.
- Morning cardio “energizes” you and “wakes you up.”
- Morning cardio may help regulate your appetite for the rest of the day.
- Your body’s circadian rhythm adjusts to your morning routine, making it easier to wake up at the same time every day.
- You’ll be less likely to “blow off” your workout when it’s out of the way early (like when you’re exhausted after work or when friends ask you to join them at the pub for happy hour).
- You can always “make time” for exercise by setting your alarm earlier in the morning.
I personally enjoy training in the morning for these reasons. I suggest you give it a try for a few weeks to see how you respond to it. Try a coffee or other low calorie caffeine drink 20 – 30 minutes before your cardio session. The caffeine will help to draw out fat from your fat cells and bring them into your bloodstream ready for burning. It also gives you energy and performance in your training. Use in sensible and safe moderation.
Some people find it useful to train the same time each day to take advantage of the power of habits. The only thing I do recommend however is that you don’t do cardio directly before your weight lifting sessions because that would leave you depleted and your performance would suffer during your weight training.
George Health – Fasted Morning Cardio Benefits
One common exercise myth is that doing too much aerobic exercise, or cardio causes muscle loss.
While it’s certainly possible this could happen, only extreme amounts of high impact, high intensity cardio would cause large muscle losses to occur. The muscle loss issue is usually highly exaggerated. If you’re in doubt, don’t guess: Carefully track your lean body mass with skinfold testing and adjust your cardio and nutrition accordingly.
Losing muscle is most likely caused by three factors: Inadequate caloric intake, inadequate protein or dieting without including a weight training program. You’re more likely to lose muscle from not eating enough than you are from doing too much cardio. If your lean body mass drops, it’s usually because you’re missing meals or not eating enough.
Provide yourself with the proper nutritional support, including adequate meal frequency, protein, carbohydrates and total calories, and it’s not likely that you’ll lose muscle, even with daily 45-minute cardio sessions. It’s ironic that so many people are worried about losing muscle from cardio when they’re skipping meals and eating meals without protein.